Work of the Week: The Messenger by Simone Saunders

Date: Feb 13, 2024

Celebrating Black History Month 2024, we feature our recent acquisitio

The AFA is pleased to feature the painting The Messenger by Simone Saunders as our Work of the Week as we coninue to celebrate Black History Month 2024. 

About the artwork

The AFA acquired this painting through its Art Acquisition by Application program. This program is designed to acquire contemporary works of art by any eligible Alberta artist. The next deadline to apply is April 2, 2024. Read the guidelines and apply.

Artist statement:

The Messenger is an intricate array of colourful threads nested together to emulate what the large magenta text in the background states: LOVE. This work was created in 2021 during the height of the pandemic. As a community, we were isolated and feeling the repercussions and the tolls of the outbreak. I had the fortune of working from the studio, located in the comforts of my home.

My work uplifts Black womanhood, and the resilience, joy and the strength of being a Black woman. Textiles engage upon a search for belonging, a connection to a community, to personal identity and a connection to Black history. I create narratives through cultural mythology, current iconography, and personal landscapes. A big source of inspiration within my work is Art Nouveau, an era in which female portraiture was highlighted and exuded tremendous grace and femininity. This is reflected within The Messenger, capturing a sensuality, mystery, vigor and charm amongst the vibrancy of colour. It is a style that I capture within my textiles which I have called, Black Nouveau.

The Messenger portrays a woman adorned in a gown - reminiscent of the charleston era - resplendent with lace and an intricate design. Her arm is outstretched, reaching toward a swan whose wings are wide and ready for flight. A background tone of pink and red exude with warmth and joy, having captured - intermittently - vibrant florals which scatter the ethereal abstracted landscape

The Black Lives Matter movement was ongoing throughout this creation. We witnessed in horror the senseless murders of our brothers and sisters. I was encountering my own personal demons of having suffered a personal loss. I was surveying the online landscape in a daze, noting the decline of my mental health, and yet a divine understanding that I was not alone. The Messenger is reaching out for connectivity. It’s vying for a sisterhood, casting my thread to pierce through the diaspora, for Black women to come together, to heal, the Love.

Artist profile

Simone Elizabeth Saunders (she/her) is a textile artist based in Mohkinstsis - Calgary, Canada. She holds a B.F.A. with Distinction from the Alberta University of Arts in 2020. Her textiles are hand tufted in the medium of rug-making using a punch-needle and tufting machine.

Saunders explores themes of the diaspora, ancestorship and Black womanhood. Her colourful textiles highlight motifs and iconography from her Jamaican heritage and engage with socio-cultural factors reclaiming power from oppressive ideologies.

Simone has a career in the theatre arts, a previous B.F.A. from the University of Alberta’s Acting Conservatory. Weaving her theatre experiences and integrating dramatism and story-telling within her creations - Simone uplifts narratives of Black joy and resilience. 

​Simone was the recipient from Calgary Black Chambers 2023 Achievement Award for Arts, Media and Entertainment. Simone was named one of 20 "top Compelling Calgarians for 2022" and "Top 40 Under 40" of Calgarian Professionals, by Avenue Magazine. Simone was awarded the National Winner for the Bank of Montreal's 1st Art Competition in 2020. 

Alberta Visual Artists: your work could be purchased and acquired to the AFA Art Collection. The next deadline to apply is April 2, 2024. 

n from Calgary-based artist Simone Saunders.